Waterfowler's Gear List: Top 10 Things You Shouldn't Forget

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Duck Commander’s Justin Martin Reveals His Must-Have Items

Waterfowling involves lots of gear, so it's easy to forget critical items. Use this handy list to ensure you're ready for a day in the marsh. Photo © Bill Konway

If you’ve ever sat down in the blind after carefully setting decoys — daybreak soon to come, your dog settled but anxious for the day to begin, shotgun secured and ready in the notch in front of you — but then opened your blind bag and thought, “Dang nab it, I forgot my (fill in the blank),” join the club. You are like every other waterfowl hunter.

In duck hunting, there’s a lot to remember and, at the same time, a lot to forget. Shotshells. Of course you brought shotshells. What would you do without shotshells? Choke tubes, in case the ducks aren’t dropping like they should and you need to adjust your pattern. Calls. Yes, of course you remembered to bring your lanyard of calls. In fact, you brought your favorite calls and a few extra, just in case.

And you know you’re going to get hungry sometime, probably sooner than you think, so is everyone bringing their own snacks and lunch, or do you count on your buddy who said he’d bring the groceries to cook breakfast? A growling stomach makes for a long day in the blind.

Shotgun? You wouldn’t forget your shotgun, would you?

So what about those other items? The sort of things you don’t know you need until you need them, and then you realize just how much you really need them.

So many things on the list hover somewhere around “convenient” and “essential,” so I thought I’d seek the advice of a fellow who knows his way around a duck blind: Realtree pro staffer Justin Martin, general manager of Duck Commander. And Fin Commander. And Strut Commander. I’d tell you Martin is the bearded guy on Duck Dynasty, but that wouldn’t narrow it down much.

So I asked Martin what he regularly totes to the blind; the items he considers essential and that make a difference but are beyond the obvious stuff.

He thought about it and came up with a heck of a list, which, he said, was in no particular order of importance.

Duck Commander's Justin Martin has an extensive list of must-have gear he carries afield every day. Photo © Duck Commander

Tarred Twine

“I use this stuff more than one could even think possible,” Martin said. “I have repaired seats with it. I can make a temporary duck stringer out of it if I forget mine or we don’t have enough to go around.

“I am a big proponent of each hunter keeping track with his or her birds, and if someone doesn’t hunt a lot, they often don’t have a duck strap. You can also make a makeshift lanyard out of it if you are hunting with kids and they want to blow a call and be a part of the hunt. And it’s great for tying bundles of brush together on those days your blind needs an extra little bit of camouflage.”

Team Realtree EZ Hangers

These are the screw-in adjustable hangers you can attach to a handy tree wherever you find yourself hunkered in as ducks approach.

“We go mobile quite often during duck season, and these things can be absolute life-savers,” Martin said. “They make 'em in all shapes and sizes now, so there’s never a reason to have wet gear anymore. You can hang your bag, gun case, ducks, Yeti bottle and shotgun from these things. I keep no less than three on me at any given time.”

Hand Saw

“This one goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway,” he said. “We hunt primarily in Louisiana, and by the time the ducks get here, they are the smartest of all.” By the time they’ve arrive in Louisiana, ducks have run the gauntlet of hunters way down the flyway, and they’ve seen about every blind configuration and camouflage trick in the book, so Martin said he and his hunting partners take extra care to hide themselves from wary ducks.

“It often takes loads of brush to maintain the concealment level we like,” Martin said. “And sometimes, you get to your blind and varmints have carried off your brush, so you need to cut more. A hand saw makes that job as easy as can be. Let’s face it, all duck hunters are paranoid schizophrenics when it comes to having enough camouflage.”

EBWs

“This stands for emergency butt wipes,” Martin said.

Enough said? I guess not. Martin breaks it down like this.

“They come in many shapes, forms and fashions. They can be but are not limited to Grime Boss (Hint: Use the smooth not the scrub side.), dude wipes, regulation toilet paper, baby wipes and others. I think all duck hunters can agree that nothing gets the bowels moving quite like putting on waders and being in waist-deep water.”

Zip Ties

“The possibilities for zip ties are endless,” Martin said.

They’re lightweight and stow away easily, so keep a bunch of them, in different sizes, handy.

“Use at your discretion,” he said.

Zip-Lock Bags

“I use these for just about everything too,” Martin said. “They keep your wallet, license, cell phone and anything else important completely waterproof. Also, if you are like some of us, you can pull feathers from the ducks instantly and save them for tying your favorite crappie jigs.”

Different sizes for different purposes, but sandwich- and quart-size are pretty handy for most needs you’re likely to encounter. Make sure your cell phone fits in one before you get in the boat or the blind.

Fingernail Clippers

“When you’re around water for 80 to 100 days a year, your hands take a brunt of the damage,” Martin said. “They begin to crack, and one of the necessary evils of that is hang nails. Nothing can be more inconvenient than a hang nail.” (I should’ve asked Martin about fighting back with hand lotion. Not your significant other’s or spouse’s flowery-smelling stuff. Something suitable or, worst case, stash one of those little motel-room bottles.)

Possession Tags

Martin touched on this one in No. 1, mentioning the importance of each hunter keeping track of the ducks he/she shoots.

“In duck hunting more than most other hunting activities, it is important to keep your duck strap and ducks separated,” he said. “I have seen more folks end up with violations over this than anything.”

Mosquito Repellent

“In Louisiana, it takes until December for the mosquitoes to go away,” he said. “Duck season opens in September for two weeks and then again in November for a couple of weeks. To hunt here, you have to be one with mosquitoes, but the threat of West Nile is real.”

Carabiners

These are handy for keeping gear and accessories clipped to you or your blind bag or on the blind, boat or a tree next to you.

“I would be lost without these,” he said. “You can clip anything, anywhere.”

And Other Items

That’s it. That’s the list. But Martin added, “Now of course, I have the standard items, too. I carry more than enough shells, choke tubes, snacks and bottled water to get me through the hunt. If we are being 100 percent honest, I could survive a couple of days out there on what I carry.

“I will also have spare double-A batteries, flashlights, lighters and hand warmers.”

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